She chose her words carefully. “Gavin,” Emily began, her voice soft, “why don’t we just go to sleep? We’re both mentally shot right now. We can talk about this tomorrow.”
Without answering, Gavin shook his head. After rolling his neck, he leveraged himself back against pillows tucked up along the headboard.
On her knees, Emily turned and stared at Gavin. Shadows of cold hostility danced on his face and all it did was make her feel guilty for not allowing him to do what she knew he so desperately wanted. She moved her eyes from his, unable to witness his pain any longer.
“Look at me, Emily,” he commanded in a tortured whisper. Her gaze flickered back to his. Gavin sensed her nervousness, her hesitation, and fuck if it didn’t mess with his thoughts. “Come here,” he said, holding out his hand.
She reached for it, and he guided her to his side. Nuzzling against him, Emily rested her head on his chest. Though tension of her own poured from her body, the tantalizing aroma of his cologne and the steady thumping of his heart calmed her and brought her mind to a place she felt safe. His hand drifting up and down her back eased her further into a cave of euphoria only Gavin could provide.
“Where did hit you?”
She knew it was coming, but his question still elicited a full, bone-deep shiver, pulling her right from those few seconds of calm. Curled into a tight ball and molded to him, Emily lifted her head and looked into his searching blue eyes. She brought up her hand and pointed to the spot above her brow, where only a few days before, he had questioned her about it. Where only a few days before, she lied to the man she loved. The man she needed to trust her. Emily felt his body go taut with tension. Like an inferno, anger blazed in his eyes. Emily watched the muscle in his jaw tick as he gazed at her. Other than Gavin’s increased breathing, silence hung in the air, weighing heavily on Emily’s heart.
“I’m okay, Gavin,” she whispered, feigning reassurance.
Gavin seethed. The need to wipe Dillon from the face of the earth seeded itself in every cell, tendon, and muscle in his body. However, the need to comfort Emily pulled at him as he forced his composure to remain intact. Gently, he lifted her on top of him, straddling her legs over his hips. He could feel her shaking, and it wracked through his head. Fucked with him… bad.
Staring at the tiny scar, he brushed his thumb across it. Though barely noticeable, just knowing how it got there gutted Gavin beyond words. How could a man, a true man, do that to a woman? It was something Gavin couldn’t even begin to process. Leaning up, he circled one arm around her waist as he wrapped his free hand around the back of her neck and guided her face down to his. For a second, he stared into her eyes before grazing his lips across the mark that would forever brand her beautiful face. A brand placed there by an asshole who’d never deserved her.
“Where else did he hit you, Emily?” Gavin flicked his eyes to hers. He realized he was setting himself up for more self-inflicted pain, but a part of him needed to put himself through it. Emily had suffered far worse than he was. Or not. That was a question he definitely couldn’t answer because this was a suffering he’d never had to endure.
“My lip,” Emily softly answered, watching Gavin’s eyes turn fierce. She froze.
Gavin cringed, fighting back the compulsion to rip out of the house. “Your lip,” he stated calmly, once again trying to school his tone. “He hit your fucking lip?” Hesitantly, Emily nodded. Watching her beautiful lips tremble, Gavin caught a whisper of her perfume. In that moment, all he could think about was re-branding those lips. He pulled her down to his mouth hard and fast.
Emily let out a soft whimper as their tongues met, hot and wet. His kiss was desperate, urgent, and devouring. Though his possessiveness took her by surprise, she knew he was stamping her. She knew it, and she didn’t care because she wanted him to. She needed this from him, and she knew he needed to mark her. She tangled her fingers in his hair, tugging hard as her heart sank.
“I can’t believe he fucking hurt you, baby,” Gavin breathed. “I’ll only ever worship these lips. I’ll only ever worship this body.” Gripping the back of her neck tighter, Gavin deepened the kiss. “When I look at you, I feel like I’m looking at the other half of myself. You’ve filled the empty space in my soul, and because of that, you’re a Goddess to me. That’s the way I’m always going to treat you. For the rest of your life. I promise you that. I fucking promise.”
Emily kissed him harder. His words tattooed themselves in her heart, his kiss nearly depleted her of air she didn’t want in her lungs. She only wanted to breathe him in.
As Gavin pulled Emily’s T-shirt over her head, he knew those promises would be easy to keep. He’d rather burn in the lowest pits of hell than go back on his word because she was a Goddess in his life. His lover. His friend. His forever.
But damn him into those flaming pits of hell, as he began to re-brand his lover, he knew there was one promise he wouldn’t be able to keep because he would protect her until the day he died.
The most fucked up part, and God help him…
He couldn’t wait to break it.
“Gavin, could you go ahead and answer Mr. Rosendale’s question regarding our approach?”
Without warning, Colton’s deep voice intruded on Gavin’s thoughts. Wicked thoughts that’d consumed him over the last sixteen hours since Emily explained what Dillon had done to her. Sitting in a meeting, surrounded by executives representing one of the country’s leading pharmaceutical giants—one in need of a massive advertising campaign—Gavin knew he should be paying attention. But he wasn’t. His world had been turned inside out, his heart ripped open. There weren’t adequate words that could possibly convey his mental state of mind on this late Friday morning.
His sleep-deprived state of mind, that is.
In the darkness, Gavin had stared at the ceiling as he held Emily. Listening to her soft breathing, wide awake with adrenaline pumping through his veins, Gavin attempted to purge visions of Dillon hurting her from his head. No matter how hard he tried, it didn’t work. His brain fucked with him. The insistent clatter of wanting to feel Dillon’s blood on his hands screamed loud in his ears. He had seethed until the sun rose. Gavin would’ve never thought it was possible that Emily’s soft body, intertwined with his, couldn’t bring him down from the cliff of murderous destruction from which he was so eagerly waiting to jump. Last night proved that even though holding her dampened some of the anger boiling under his skin, Emily couldn’t extinguish the flame fueling it.
Colton repeated his earlier request, yanking Gavin back to the present. He lifted his heavy head and settled his eyes on his brother. Colton stared at him with a look of confusion shadowing his face. Gavin rummaged through the paperwork in front of him. When he heard one of the four gentlemen seated across from him clear his throat, Gavin broke the silence.
He shook his head and glanced back at Colton. “No. I can’t answer his question.” He tossed the stack of papers onto the conference table. “Why don’t you go ahead and give them the information, Colton.” It wasn’t a polite question but more so a statement that said ‘now’s not the time to fuck with me.’ The eldest man’s face went gray, its color mimicking his hair. Once again, silence cloaked the room.